Treasury to distribute COVID-19 relief funds to tribes as Alaska Native corporations remain in litigation

Dancers perform at the 2018 AFN conference
Dancers perform at the 2018 AFN conference(KTUU)
Published: May. 5, 2020 at 1:20 PM AKDT
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Native American tribes in the Lower 48 will begin receiving Coronavirus Relief Fund money from the U.S Department of the Treasury.

“We are pleased to begin making $4.8 billion in critical funds available to Tribal governments in all states,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin in a prepared statement Tuesday. “Our approach is based on the fair balancing of tribal needs.”

Mnuchin and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt released their joint statement Tuesday. The Associated Press reported the announcement comes more than a week after a congressional deadline to get $8 billion in funding specifically to tribal governments.

Of that $8 billion, 60 percent is meant to go to tribes based on population data used in the distribution of the Indian Housing Block Grant, subject to a floor of $100,000. The other 40 percent will be “distributed based on the total number of persons employed by the Indian tribe and any tribally-owned entity, and further data to be collected related to the amount of higher expenses faced by the tribe in the fight against COVID-19,” according to the release.

As for Alaska Native Corporations receiving benefits,

preventing the U.S. Treasury Department from distributing coronavirus relief funds to those groups.

Tuesday, the ANCSA Regional Association (ARA) and the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association (ANVCA) filed a motion to intervene in the U.S. District Court case between several tribal organizations and the U.S. Treasury Department.

"Our organizations believe it is imperative to preserve and protect the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) definition of ‘Indian tribe’, which includes Alaska Native corporations and has been acknowledged for decades. This court decision could have unintended consequences that would negatively impact Alaska Native people," said ARA and ANVCA in a joint statement.

In a

, the U.S. Department of the Treasury says, “amounts calculated for Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional and village corporations will be held back until pending litigation relating to their eligibility is resolved.”

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